Claridges is a feast - even before the first delicious morsel passes your lips.
The five star deluxe hotel in the heart of London’s Mayfair is not only the last word in luxury, it is also a key part of the city’s history.
Star, socialites and the crowned heads of Europe have feasted - and stayed - here for more than a century.
But don’t worry if you’re not a star or a socialite because the dedicated and efficient staff will make you feel like one with a welcome that would do justice to Royalty.
We step into the foyer with its sweeping and majestic staircase, its glittering chandeliers and embellished mirrors and its beautiful floral arrangements.
It is the flowers that capture the senses not just with their aesthetic beauty but with their wonderful scent. Today the theme is a golden one and everywhere the eye can see, cascades of deep yellow roses - hundreds of them - fill containers. The centrepiece alone is a worthy of a Chelsea gold medal.
We are ushered to our table, set with pristine white linen and laid with mint-green fine china in keeping with the hotel’s legendary Art Deco style.
We have deliberately skipped lunch (and breakfast if we’re being totally honest) in order to savour the delights that we know are to be placed before us.
When it arrives, it’s a tower of treasures: delicate finger sandwiches with a variety of fillings, smoked salmon, cured ham, free-range egg, smoked chicken and of course, cucumber.
“Would we like more,” asks a waiter who has been keeping his beady eye on us and obviously seen us demolish the plateful.
Eager to move on to the next layer of the tower, we decline.
Now it’s time to sample the freshly-baked scones - two kinds. There’s apple and there’s raisin which we crown with tea-infused rosehip jam and lashings of rich, clotted Devonshire cream.
Today is a day not to count calories but to indulge our palates and so when the last crumb is digested (again we are offered a replenished plate) we finally reach the pinnacle of the tower.
This composition is a cake-lover’s nirvana. A rich chocolate layer cake nestles alongside a delicate meringue oozing a fresh strawberry coulis and vanilla cream. Then there’s a lemon concoction (I lay claim to that straight-away) and a tiny shot glass filled with a layered fruity creation.
All of these pastries, cakes and deserts may have been created in miniature but not a detail of their flavour or deign has been sacrificed. Each one is a mini masterpiece.
Afternoon tea at Claridges is an English tradition at its finest for Claridges serves the best afternoon tea in London. Fact. They have a whole collection of awards to prove it.
This year again the hotel celebrated being named London’s finest venue for afternoon tea for the second time when they received The Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea 2011 award, the highest accolade in the tea world.
Oh and did I mention the tea itself? There is a choice of 30 varieties from all corners of the world to choose from.
Some of the world’s greatest designers have left their mark on Claridge’s and original features mingle with distinctly modern twists.
It is this wonderful, effortless Art Deco elegance, coupled with immaculate attention to detail and scrumptious eats that makes this hotel so special.
They say that a stay at Claridge’s is an unforgettable experience. Well a couple of hours enjoying afternoon tea is pretty memorable too.